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Meet Max and Mary: Helping hospital patients on their ‘ruff’ days

Meet Max and Mary: Helping hospital patients on their ‘ruff’ days

There are numerous types of therapy out there. But there’s one that might be the paw-fect one for you. Pet therapy has been scientifically linked to reducing blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and it can even overall lower your physical pain. Unfortunately, patients aren’t allowed to bring in their own pets–but that’s where Max and Mary come in.

This dynamic duo has been an inseparable team for almost 3 and half years now and have zeroed in on one shared goal. Director of Activities for Transitional Care Unit Mary Dunn says, “To brighten someone’s day because who wouldn’t be excited to see a four legged friend for a visit.”

You can find them both strolling the halls of CHI St. Alexius hospital putting smiles on everyone’s face, and when people are having some of their worst days, that is when they really jump into action.

“About six months or so ago, we went down to a room in our oncology department where a patient had just received some not so good news. It really helped the patient for he was really missing his own dog. But after hearing that bad news he just grabbed on to Max and held on to him and said this is the best thing we could have provided,” says Dunn. Julianna Zimmerman is just one of the many patients Max has been able to reach. She recently underwent a 5 level back surgery and says Max has brought back the joy she once had with her dog.

“When I would be really hurting and she would come and lay on my lap and I would pet her and you would just kind of forgot and forget that pain. And that’s the same way with Max here. He comes over and you pet him and you forget about the pain you got,” says Zimmerman. Because of wonder dogs like Max, Dunn says that some patients have been able to cut back on their pain medication. So if you haven’t tried pet therapy, its effects may just surprise you.

Dunn says, “It kind of takes a person’s breath away unless you have experienced it or seen it firsthand or just see the interaction people have with the dog and how it brings them happiness. They can be at the lowest part of their day and you knock on the door and go ‘would you like a furry friend to come in for a little pet visit’ and they just light up. They say this is the best part of my day and that really is the wow moment.”

So if you or someone you know are having one “ruff” day, Julie and Max are sure to make your hospital stay a dog-gone better one.

“These dogs they love you unconditionally,” says Dunn. “They don’t care what kind of day you are having. They are just excited to be with you, see you, and spend time with you. I think he gets just as much out of pet therapy as he gives.”

“I think dogs are a thing we need in the hospitals,” says Zimmerman.

The benefits of pet therapy for your physical health include:

  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Improves your cardiovascular health
  • Diminishes overall physical pain
  • Releases endorphins that calm your nerves
  • Releases endorphins that calm your nerves

Benefits for your mental health include:

  • Lifts spirits and lessens depression
  • Encourages communication
  • Reduces boredom
  • Creates motivation for the client to recover faster

Dunn adds pet therapy is just as useful for the patients as it is for the staff.

KX News
Aaron Fields Reporting